Discursive change in Turkish strategic culture: changing narratives, roles and values

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis is devoted to analysing change in Turkish strategic culture, which is conceptualized as change in narratives. In the mainstream literature it has been customary to provide explanations about the change in Turkish foreign policy by applying existing theories which focus on the ideological differences between Kemalism, Islamism and Liberalism or the implications of democratization and globalization for Turkish society, economy and politics. This thesis proposes a different framework based on the discursive practices of the Turkish foreign policy elite in the form of narratives. The main research question is: What sorts of narratives regarding national defence and security have been produced by the AKP elite to challenge the dominant national security state narratives? It is the overarching argument in this thesis that within the emerging Turkish strategic culture the Ottoman past is neither seen as a distant past nor a temporal other; Turkey’s geography and neighbourhood is neither a liability nor a spatial other; and concepts and values such as soft power and the promotion of democratic values is no longer considered as naive nor alien by the Turkish state elite. This thesis suggests that three contested narratives can be found within Turkish strategic culture. Among these narratives, the thesis identifies the emergence of two new narratives which challenge a hitherto dominant master narrative, i.e. the national security state master narrative. These two counter-narratives are i) Turkey as a "great country" that is able to address foreign policy issues with a renewed self-esteem that stems from the nostalgic utilization of its historical and cultural assets; and ii) Turkey as an "internationally active player" that aspires to contribute to the international system by playing a new international role and by aligning itself with universal norms and values.
    By extending the analysis of Turkish strategic culture to the field of narratives and narrative analysis this study demonstrates that Turkish strategic culture is no longer a strategic culture of a national security state or a flank state or a middle power, it is rather constructed within the narratives of the Turkish state elite, which is primarily built upon the overarching narratives of great country and internationally active player. Contrary to the ideology-centred explanations and paradigm shift arguments about the change in Turkish foreign policy, the approach suggested in this thesis provides rather complex, yet arguably more nuanced and comprehensive explanation than the ones on offer in the literature. Lastly, by taking master narratives and counter narratives as the units of analysis to understand the cultural change, this thesis also contributes to the literature on strategic culture by illustrating the role of agency and their practices of challenging dominant narratives by producing counter-narratives.
    Date of Award1 Jul 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • King's College London
    SupervisorChristoph Meyer (Supervisor), Bill Park (Supervisor) & Alexander Warkotsch (Supervisor)

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